Little by Little One Walks Far*

UNFPA is the United Nations agency that deals with providing much needed family planning and reproductive health services in the developing world.  In 2002, the American government decided not to give a promised 34 million dollars to UNFPA.

In different parts of the country and without ever having met, two ordinary American women, Jane Roberts and Lois Abraham, asked the women of America to send $1 dollar each to UNFPA.

Nobody – not even UNFPA – thought it would work. But it did.  Soon a deluge of envelopes with single dollar bills began arriving at the UNFPA offices from women – and men – all over the United States.

From this an organisation called 34 Million Friends of UNFPA ( was formed and millions of dollars were raised to help families all over the world.

In 2009, the U.S. administration restored the funding to UNFPA but 34 Million Friends still continues to work to support this vital service.

And all from the efforts of two ordinary women – a social action butterfly effect if ever there was one.

(*Peruvian Proverb)

Peace on Earth – Heart to Heart

The heart is like a box, and language is the key.* 

Photograph – Neighbourhood Children of the Neptune Road-Lovell Street Area – 1973 – Michael Philip Manheim – U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-6813

*’Abdu’l-Bahá The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 60-61

Educate Girls and Change the World

There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls.
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

I can’t say it better than that – or this –

The Roots of Rights

On December 10th, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Nowadays, when we think of human rights, what exactly do we think?

Do we think that human rights are nothing to do with us?

That human rights are best left to activists?



Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UN Commission that wrote the UDHR, had a very different vision of human rights –

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Butterfly effects for human rights?


Making a New Reality

We sometimes mistake the way things are for the way they have to be.  Even when our institutions and structures fail to meet our needs we often continue with outmoded structures and practices.  But occasionally people with vision are able to see clearly enough to change reality.

In the 1970s, a group of academics and professionals in Columbia looked outside their ivory tower and saw that the people around them needed help.  Gustavo Correa, a former mathematics professor, describes it thus –

“The economic indicators were saying that things were getting better, but you could see that the conditions of the poor people were not improving.” (1)

Although urban areas were prospering, the rural people were being pressurized into selling their land to the huge sugar and coffee companies.  Selling the land did give them an initial injection of cash but destroyed their futures as they were transformed from self-sufficient farmers to vulnerable contract labourers.

In an effort to deal with this situation they set up FUNDAEC – an acronym for Fundación par la Applicacion y Ensenanza de las Ciencias, (the Foundation for the Application and Teaching of the Sciences).

The founders of FUNDAEC wanted a new type of development.  Rather than trying to superimpose a model of development they let the needs of the people dictate the provision of services.  The primary need identified was knowledge.

“…they need access to scientific knowledge so as to be able to produce new knowledge that is applicable to their own situation, knowledge that works within cultural and technological restrictions that exist at the starting point of development.”(2)

So they started a rural university.  This university would not only work on generating and applying the knowledge the rural Columbians needed, it would also involve them in the gathering and production of this knowledge.

“The idea of a rural university is not so much a physical place as a space of learning, a social place, where people can get together and produce and then distribute the kinds of knowledge needed for rural life.” (3)

One of the outcomes of the establishment of this rural university was the development of the “Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial” (SAT).  This programme is a formal but flexible system of secondary education. SAT – now recognised and certified by the governments of Columbia, Honduras and Guatemala – which makes it possible for any individual – even those who live in the most remote rural areas – to have access to a full secondary education.

“If people don’t have access to knowledge, and in today’s world that means scientific knowledge in particular, then you can have all of the ‘participatory’ meetings you want but you won’t really have participation. Because the people won’t really understand.” (4)

This is a great example of a group of people who made the institutions fit the needs of the people rather than insisting that the people fit the needs of the institutions.


(1) Gustave Correa – Fundaec: Not a typical development foundation –


What is justice?

It’s a hard concept to pin down and even harder to put into effect.

But most definitely worth pursuing.

When we live without justice we also live without –






There really isn’t an easy formula for justice, even within our legal systems. But maybe there are principles we can apply, both personally and in our societies, in our pursuit of justice?

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?…To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.

A Challenge to Change

No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p.98)

Here’s an idea that has the potential to change the world.


No more retribution.

No more revenge.

No more justification of wrong-doing.

He doesn’t moralise just simply states the case.

Now there’s a challenge if ever I heard one.


Photograph – Two women boxing. Format: Repository: Phillips Glass Plate Negative Collection, Powerhouse Museum

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Work to Rules.

Three Rules of Work: 

Out of clutter find simplicity;

From discord find harmony;

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

– Albert Einstein


Photograph – Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. Casting new parts for lorries from broken scrap in France.’
This photograph is a posed scene to illustrate all the stages involved in casting machine parts. On the left, men are packing sand around the patterns to make the moulds. To the right, a man is making holes in the mould to pour in the metal and release gas. In the centre, two men are pretending to pour metal, although the crucible is empty. In front of them is an open mould with a complete casting.

Sand-casting is still commonly used in the production of small machine parts. The sand has to be very fine and slightly moist so that it retains the shape of the pattern. It is a very quick method of making a lot of the same type of part.

I’ve heard there are troubles…

It’d be nice to think life is always easy.

Nice but unrealistic.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down…

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!*

Photograph – Fort Wayne Daisies player, Marie Wegman, of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League arguing with umpire Norris Ward : Opalocka, FloridaDate: Photographed on April 22, 1948. Series Title: (Department of Commerce collection.)General Note: Accompanying note: “Umpire-Player Argument: For all the head-to-head ‘ferocity’ player Marie Wegman, 22, Cincinnati, Ohio, meekly asks umpire Norris Ward, ‘sure you’re right about that play?’ Wegman is 6’2”. She plays infield and 2nd base for Ft. Wayne, last year played for Rockford club.”Repository: State Library and Archives of Florida, 500 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250 USA. Contact: >
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